As my first attempt at focusing on the details, I thought I would share a little bit about the backstage adventures behind Jungle Book, Kids where I spent a lot of time over the past week.
Anyone who has ever done something for a live performance knows that back stage tends to vibrate with energy, especially on opening night. Add to that normal excitement the fact that this show had 70 children between the ages of 7 and 12 and the atmosphere in that college theater and the crackle of energy was palpable. I’m sure if there was anymore excitement in the air bolts of lightning would have shattered through the ionized atmosphere. Seventy young children running around in various manifestations of jungle inhabitants (including plants, prickly pears, flowers, rocks, and all kinds of living creatures) created an atmosphere that could have been (and occasionally was) utterly chaotic. Thankfully, with the help of the director and the producer, the chaos stayed at a minimum except for the rare flare up of insanity.
My job, as stage manager of this production, consisted mostly of wrangling kids and trying to prevent them from talking, running, playing, touching. You know, all of the things that kids naturally want to do when they feel this much excitement. I also had to make sure the appropriate group was ready and quiet (the hardest part) for their entrances. Overall this went well, except for the monkey chorus who can only be described as a true bunch of monkeys, led in all chaos by King Louie who had a very distinct way of thinking that the rules did not apply to him. After all, he was the king.
In addition to these more traditional kid wrangling duties, I became the official makeup designer of Shere Kan, and consultant on Kaa, Balloo, and a few others. This would have been completely fun except for one little detail–the one that made opening night a challenge in numerous ways and tested my patience on many levels.
What detail could cause me, the most experienced person involved in this show, to shoot evil looks and lash out? Only one thing could push my buttons that much.
The much dreaded . . .
Now, to be fair, most of the people who helped out back stage were delightful. They put in tons of man hours and created incredible costumes. They kept things organized and helped keep the chaos down.
The ones that made the demon in me appear were the ones who decided that they knew best. They knew that their child should wear bright red lipstick, even though we (the producer, director, and myself) wanted somewhat less “whorish” colors for these girls. They knew that their daughter’s hair would look better with the bangs down, even though those bangs hid her eyes and blocked the makeup and made her itch. They knew what should happen backstage during the show, even though they stood in the wings and (it appears) used a flashlight that showed out in the audience. They knew when to let the kids move from point A to point B, even thought that meant somehow kids were wandering around in No Man’s land where I found them by luck.
Luckily, I had a very supportive director and producer who made it explicitly clear that I was the boss backstage, and that my word was law. Of course, thanks to Stage Moms, I had a few arguments with their children who were trying to listen to their parents when their parents were WRONG! I won . . . of course. But not without having to raise my voice and be strict.
And during the final two performances we restricted access to back stage much more seriously so I did not lose my mind.
At least the kids realized that I really am nice even when I had to be mean (or at least strict). Most of them appreciated that I was there.
The only thing that brings out my dark side is a Stage Mom. So, if you ever work on a show with me, or send your children to do a show with me, leave your diva attitude behind or expect the wrath of Dr. Lisa.